Officers partiality excused by Castle Point Councillors taking ultimate responsibility? Task and Finish Group work suspended?

A letter has been distributed that appeared in the local Yellow Advertiser;

Professional and impartial planning.

May I take this opportunity to correct the false and misleading impression created by D Grice (YA letters, Feb. 20th Planning Department problems).
I wish to reassure residents that all Castle point officers, in particular the council’s planning officers, carry out their duties impartially in accordance with the law to the highest professional standards.

Without going into the history of this matter, there are times when professional officers have to convey information that a resident does not wish to hear but that does not justify comments inferring that officers are in any way biased.

David Marchant

Chief Executive

Castle Point Borough Council

This is of interest in that it gives a clue as to, albeit unclearly, the order of decision making responsibility at local authority level.

During Canvey’s issues with the catastrophic Core Strategy examination it emerged that the Lead group had adopted a Plan that proposed large Green Belt development only on the Island part of the Borough.

Apparently this was proposed at the then Planning Officer’s suggestion at a “very” Private Meeting, so as to resolve the deadlock in progressing with a Local Plan to Examination stage.

We, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group, exposed this “arrangement” at the Core Strategy Examination in Public and later covered this on this blog, like so;

In the Olde Dayf of ye Olde Core Strategy a level of new development in the Borough was proposed by the now defunct Regional Agency.
The numbers came as a shock to the residents and a problem for the Local Authority.
A growth distribution plan was drawn up and discussed by the political groups.

The mainland Lead Group rejected the proposed growth sites and threatened to reject the plan.
Officers suggested that if they were to propose the Dutch Village as the main new housing site, would the Lead Group Councillors support the Plan?

Yes was the reply and forward went the Council with the Core Strategy, despite much opposition from Canvey Islanders.

“I have a problem with this” said the Planning Inspector!
“You will need to balance the housing growth across the Borough.”

New sites were considered and just prior to the Council meeting to consider them, the Leader cllr Challis gave a very brave interview to the Echo accepting the idea that development was actually needed on the Mainland.

It is apparent that an officer made a suggestion, outside of Planning Guidance, simply to make progress on a stalled Local Plan (Core strategy).

However it was left to councillors, through a vote at full Council, to compound and take responsibility away from the officers for what was a blatant piece of biased Planning manouvering.
It illustrates the importance at voting stage, whether or not councillors take or reject the officers advice and recommendation.

The question is, does this excuse officers from any responsibility of partiality displayed advice in the first instance?

It has now been disclosed, albeit un-confirmed that there will be no further Local Plan task and Finish Group meetings ahead of the May Elections!
Whilst this will stop opportunities for political posturing, there is important outstanding business for this group to fulfill. The group has extended the scheduled time scale of their work and even re-visited one of their completed and decided upon sessions!
These constant delays and extensions may ultimately have a cost to bear at the Appeal enquiries for Glebelands and Jotmans. There appears little urgency or drive to put in place a Local Plan.
The period of purdah has yet to be entered, there is time to complete some work on the Local Plan, it should be carried out.

The Government has recently announced that pre-election purdah before the next general election will begin on 30 March 2015, the same day as the dissolution of Parliament.

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One response to “Officers partiality excused by Castle Point Councillors taking ultimate responsibility? Task and Finish Group work suspended?

  1. Those of us who have shown any interest in the future of our Borough, as it goes through the engineered local planning process will know that we are no closer to knowing where this is taking us than we were a decade ago. The electorate are being left without a clear mandate as to where thousands of new dwelling will be built. We are consistently told that we will be at the mercy of greedy developers taking advantage of the fact that we do not have a plan, which we are still void of, despite the huge financial commitments already spent in its preparation. We as voters have to ask ourselves how this has come about and who we should place our future, our children’s future, well being and safety in in the coming years. With there being very little evidence shown, as to the ability of our councillors and council officers to work in harmony for the benefit of the whole community of Castle Point Council, it will be difficult for those who vote other than through predetermined loyalty, to come to a decision. What is important is that when making our mark we are able to distinguish between local and national candidates.

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